Heather Blair - Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University
This talk asks how gender and family shaped religious activity and its representation during the Heian period by examining the career of Minamoto no Reishi (1040-1114). As Reishi’s career shows, ritual was very much a family matter; accordingly, this talk frames religiosity not only in terms of personal agency, but also in terms of networks of agents (proxies, relatives, servants, and representatives). Although, or perhaps because, Reishi was so well surrounded as a great lady in her own lifetime, she is little known today. In order to piece together information about her career, it is necessary to combine readings of vernacular anecdotes, votive texts, male courtiers’ diaries, and poetry. At the same time that this exercise in genre-crossing raises questions about how we construe religion and where we look for it in the historical record, it also highlights problems of voice and representation, as well as the boundaries between reportage and the telling of tales.